Our phriends in Australian indie folk outfit The Paper Kites – who we’ve been covering since 2013, and have played shows at Johnny Brenda’s, World Café Live, MilkBoy, Underground Arts, and First Unitarian Church – released their sixth full-length this September. The LP, At The Roadhouse, is a concept album, spawned from an experience the band embarked upon putting on rather unconventional shows in a setting which they created themselves. These shows also had them playing with a new lineup, with an addition of musicians who have come to be known as The Roadhouse Band. And just last week The Paper Kites and & The Roadhouse Band (in addition to openers The Cactus Blossoms) kicked off the first leg of a North American tour, which will have them headlining The Music Hall at World Café Live tonight (and tickets are almost gone). I recently got a chance to catch up with The Paper Kites’ drummer Josh Bentley, who told me about just how their latest album came to be, and what you can expect of this evolution of the band.
Izzy Cihak: You recently released At The Roadhouse, an album and film documenting some particularly intimate barroom shows. How did this idea to be the house band in this small town bar come about?
Josh Bentley: The Roadhouse was really something from a collective dream that we had to try and manifest into a real place. It was a venue that we’d talked about over the years, a place for people to come and hear music. We wanted it to be a combination of all the greatest dive bars you’d ever been to, late-night watering holes, smoky taverns, biker bars, but it didn’t exist, so we had to build it, and then we had to try and fill it.
We found a space that fit the bill in a place called Campbells Creek in rural Victoria and then began filling it with furniture and decor to make it feel like a real bar.
By day we would record our new album, At The Roadhouse, in a small studio at the back of the property and on weekends we would play these new songs to locals and people passing by in the newly created Roadhouse venue.
Izzy: How do you feel like these shows compared to the normal shows you play these days? I’m guessing they offered some freedoms that your normal headlining shows don’t.
Josh: Yeah, the Roadhouse residency shows were quite different to our normal live shows. They were much more intimate and smaller than our live touring shows.
We set up on a tiny stage within the Roadhouse and opened up the doors to anyone that was willing to walk in and check it out.
After the first few shows, we began to attract the attention of locals and word got around about the live shows.
The experience was somewhat invigorating. We had a bit of a “free swing,” because not many people had heard our music up that way, so there were no preconceived ideas on what people thought we would play.
Izzy: On a related note, do you have a particular favorite type of venue to play, or one that seems to best fit your style of performance? In this city alone, you’ve played a barroom, a listening room, a punk/metal concrete basement, and an actual church…
Josh: We’re not too fussy when it comes to playing in certain spaces. But if we had to choose, majestic grand theatres are a favourite of ours.
Actually, at the moment the new songs from At The Roadhouse lend themselves to more of a dive bar/intimate setting, which we’ve really enjoyed playing when we get the chance.
Izzy: Have you had any favorite reactions to the new album, whether things you’ve read about it, or just things that fans or friends have told you?
Josh: Across the board, it’s been a very positive release. We’ve had heaps of people enjoying the new music we’ve just released. Some of our best and most flattering reactions have come from fellow musicians. Sharon Van Etten and Passenger have very kindly complimented us on the new album. There’s nothing better than a compliment from an artist we admire and look up to.
Izzy: You just kicked off a North American tour. How have the first five or so dates gone so far? Any particular highlights?
Josh: The tour has been great so far. Reuniting The Roadhouse Band has been amazing. I think for the five of us it’s been so nice to have the additions of the extra three musicians join us on stage, it’s added a new dimension to our live show. One highlight has been playing at Levon Helm Studios in upstate NY. It’s hard to put into words what an honour it was to play in such a magical place, so much history and to play in a “Roadhouse” type setting too was really special.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live show this Friday night, when you headline The Music Hall at World Café Live with The Roadhouse Band, in terms of setlist, production, and just the general vibe of the night?
Josh: We can’t wait to get back to Philly and play.
There will be three extra musician friends joining us on stage for this show, which will bring a very different vibe to our live show. Given its ‘The Roadhouse’ band tour, we have incorporated a bunch of new tracks from our recent release. People can also expect some old favourites, as well. We’ve tried our best to balance old vs new material for this special run of shows.
Izzy: You’re currently on the road with The Cactus Blossoms (who I actually saw headlining the venue last year), who are also really great. What are your thoughts on them, both as tourmates and musicians? How cool is it that they were on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks?
Josh: The Cactus Blossoms have been a great addition to the tour. Both Jack and Page are lovely guys and very talented musicians. It’s been a pleasure to see them perform each night so far. It’s very cool that they’ve featured on Twin Peaks, I haven’t had a chance to chat to them about that experience just yet.
Izzy: Finally, you have a ton of shows already booked for next year, in both North America and Europe. Are there any dates you’re especially excited about, whether because you think the venue’s really cool, or it’s just a city you really enjoy visiting?
Josh: Strangely, one of our biggest markets outside of Australia is the Netherlands, and we always seem to have our biggest and best shows in that part of the world. We love heading to Amsterdam and neighbouring towns to play. Having said that, we’ve been really looking forward to taking these new At The Roadhouse songs on the road for a long time, and since the COVID pandemic we’re just extremely grateful to be back out in the world playing shows again and bringing our music to those that want to hear it.
*Get your tickets here.